Background: The deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) free flap is the optimal autogenous reconstructive technique in many patients undergoing postmastectomy. Our aim was to evaluate the standard DIEP free flap design in relation to the dominant perforating vessels using computed tomography angiography (CTA).
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed CTAs from 75 patients who had undergone perforator flap reconstruction within the past year. Locations of the largest perforator with a minimum diameter of 2.0 mm piercing the anterior rectus fascia were recorded.
Results: Of 150 hemiabdomens reviewed, 146 (97.3%) had a dominant perforator. The median location for the dominant perforator was 3.3 cm lateral and 0.9 cm below the umbilicus. One hundred twenty-one (83%) of the dominant perforators arose within 3 cm of the umbilicus. One hundred one (69%) arose at or below the level of the umbilicus. Forty-five (31%) arose above the level of the umbilicus. Thirteen (9%) arose more than 2 cm above the umbilicus.
Conclusions: The standard DIEP flap design incorporates most of the dominant perforating vessels. However, a significant number of perforators arise at or above the umbilicus, which would be near the edge or out of the standard design of the DIEP. Our findings support the use of preoperative CTA in the evaluation of patients undergoing DIEP free flap reconstruction. Modification of flap design to include the dominant perforating vessels should be considered when the dominant vessel is outside the standard design of the DIEP.